The Peninsula Panthers of the VIJHL reached the quarter mark in their 48-game schedule and although still early in the season, head coach Brad Tippett is ready to discuss his troops and what the future might hold down the road.
When we think back to where we were a month ago and where we are now, there have been tremendous strides in the learning curve. It has not shown up in the win/loss column but a bounce here or there and we could just as easily be 4-5-2.
Introduction of a new, more structured system will always take time — the young guys must learn and the veterans must adjust. As coaching and management staff, we are simply looking to get better each day and faster than our opponents. The wins will start to look after themselves.
Eleven games in September limited the amount of practice time. Implementing systems and some position-specific skills was the priority and due to that fact, one side of our special teams — the power play suffered. Our quality man-advantage chances have greatly improved of late. We are addressing and seeing improvement at each practice in our basic puck skills issues. This will greatly assist the PP.
On a bright spot, our penalty killing was No. 1 in the league until we gave up three to Victoria’s league-leading PP. We are also tied for the league lead with three short-handed goals.
Goaltending has been good. Liam Tutte earned his spot on the team when Shawn Parkinson suffered a shoulder injury. Like all starting goaltenders, they would wish to have a couple of goals back. Shawn is no exception but we are focusing on the positives. Both have made outstanding saves at key times in the game. We sometimes forget these two are 17.
We are blessed with eight defensemen. However, we are also short left-shot forwards, thus we have had Bailey Ross and Braeden Hansen patrolling the port side. Evaluating defensemen is a two-part process — when we are on offence and have the puck, and when we are defending and trying to regain possession. Our checking skills were not up to standards in terms of body position. This has resulted in some unnecessary restraining penalties. We have improved in terms of physical play. Our body positioning has improved in order to check effectively, but there is still a long way to go in this area. Poise with the puck has helped our d-men make good safe plays most of the time versus making a great play on occasion. Of late we have seen all of them improve in getting us out of our own end and also joining in the offensive attack.
We could easily make excuses about our offensive production by noting the long-term leg injuries to Trevor Owens and Marshall Brown. We prefer to look at the opportunity it has given our other forwards to play important roles in situations they may not have otherwise been afforded. Michael Sproule has quickly developed into one of the best power forwards in the league. Collectively, we have a complementary group – some checkers, some scorers, and some playmakers.
We recently named Josh Armstrong our Captain and will have a group of veterans wearing A’s. We need to continue to grow as players and as a team. Our starts to each period must be more determined, and we must push to make our team harder to compete against. Overall, I would give us a B- grade for the first quarter. We have had a couple of A- games and a few C- periods. Our Club has shown they can play with anyone; we just have to show more consistency.